“We’re going to have to completely reinvent what we mean by a hospital”

The NHS’s new chief executive spearheads motions for change

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens has stated in his first industry interview that he plans to drive the NHS into modernity full throttle, emphasising a need for a radical break from past healthcare concerns, including the current integral quality and financal problems.

Speaking to the Health Service Journal, Mr Stevens, who took up his new role in April, has laid bare impressive plans to shake up NHS services, claiming that “our traditional ways of doing things has got us to a very ossified set of services.” Recognising recent issues within the NHS, he continued “Rather than talking about failing institutions, perhaps we need to talk about pressurised health economies and community wide alternative solutions or models, rather than just singling out the hospitals.”

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Scaling back on centralised services and creating more community based care is something Mr Stevens has been keen to promote in his short time in the role, revealing that “we’re going to have to completely reinvent what we mean by a hospital, by a local hospital. We’re going to have to say that the division between what consultants do in hospitals and what GP’s do in community settings, that is going to be dissolved.” 

Thinking to the future, Mr Stevens has also mused over the creation of a non-geographically defined commissioning group. “In the context of a five-year forward view about what it’s going to take for a particular community, then we certainly should not be hidebound by the particular regulatory or policy designs that we’ve got in place.”

Five year planning

Mr Stevens has been analysing every aspect of NHS procedures, speaking about the potential of accountable care organisations models, where a single budget is used to treat a specified group, catering to their requirements. He has also mentioned his enthusiasm for multispecialty groups, which would bring together specialist and primary care doctors, indicating that he was more than open to adopting significant changes in structures. Despite encouraging innovation, Mr Stevens is also keen to support clinical commissioning groups, eager to give them a “chance to succeed.” 

Backed by PM David Cameron, Mr Stevens believes that NHS leaders will be supportive of radical changes, including new ideas relating to medical staffing and contracting rules and practices. “The status quo is clearly not working in a number of parts of the country. At that point, you either say it’s time to do something differently, or people are just faced with the more typical response, which is that services have got to close.” 

Coming from a job that saw him overseeing the global operations of insurance company UnitedHealth, as well as his experience as health adviser for Tony Blair and roles within the Department of Health, Mr Stevens has plenty of relevant experience he can bring to the NHS plate.